In case you’ve been out of the loop, here’s what’s gone down since I last updated:
- The Brewers took the Mets off the hook for Jeff Suppan, signing him to a completely ludicrous four year, $42 million contract. Bet they won’t regret that in a few years!
- The Rangers are about to drop out of the Barry Zito race, having traded for Brandon McCarthy last week, and saying their offer is only good until the end of the week. This decreases the chances of a team with money to burn offering Zito a completely stupid contract.
- The Yankees may be close to trading Randy Johnson, possibly to get in the Zito race. Okay, so maybe the McCarthy trade doesn’t decrease the chance of a team with money to burn offering Zito a completely stupid contract.
- The New York Post, with the Rangers no longer available to pump up as the team most likely to sign Zito, are now pumping up the Giants as the team most likely to sign Zito, despite the fact that no formal negotiations have taken place.
So that’s where we stand today, no closer than we were last week in finding out where Zito’s final destination will be. If he wants to be close to the Bay Area, where he has played the last few years, the Giants would seem to be the front-runners. If he wants to play for a winning team, the Mets would appear to be the front-runners. If he wants to stay in the AL West, the Mariners would appear to be the front-runners. But we are no closer to finding out the answers to any of these questions now than we were a week ago, other than that the Rangers are likely out.
There is one other factor that could play a part in where Zito winds up – money. Who will offer the most? Most expected the Rangers to do so, but they didn’t, and are likely done. Supposedly, the Giants and Mariners are willing to break the six year, $100 million barrier, but the Mariners already have two white elephant contracts on their books (Sexson and Beltre) and may not be able to take another. I can’t see them having the funds to add Zito into the mix as well, especially for a team that won’t be very good even with Zito.
The Giants signing Zito would seemingly make less sense, considering that even with Zito, they are a team that will struggle to win 80 games, and are among the oldest teams in the National League and really need to start rebuilding. Brian Sabean going after Zito reminds me of Steve Phillips signing Tom Glavine and Cliff Floyd right before he got fired; it’s a last-ditch effort to make the playoffs to keep from getting fired. But look at their roster; it’s full of old guys at the end of their career, and the few young guys they do have are pretty bad. If Zito really is concerned about winning, and the Yankees don’t trade Unit to sign Zito…I mean, the Mets would have to be a logical choice, right?
I’m conflicted on the Mets offering Zito the big contract. On one hand, this team may not have much time left. Carlos Delgado is at the end of his prime, and may only have one or two more “Carlos Delgado” seasons left. Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are both in their 40’s. Pedro Martinez just had major surgeries and may not have another Pedro Martinez season left in him. Billy Wagner is getting close to the age where relief pitchers suddenly and inexplicably lose their effectiveness. Paul Lo Duca and Jose Valentin may have just had career years. Shawn Green didn’t have anything when the Mets, and will presumably have less next year. David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran are either in their primes or will soon be entering their primes, and there is a cast of decent pitching options in the minors who may or may not pan out. This is a Mets team that needs another big time starting pitcher if they are to make a World Series run next year.
On the other hand…is Zito worth this money? Is he really worth $100 million? I am having a hard time thinking that he is. Next year, Carlos Zambrano will likely test the free agent market. That’s a pitcher who the Mets could sign for six years, $100+ million, and I’d feel comfortable. Zito? He’s a very good pitcher, but the money he wants is not for a very good pitcher, it’s for a superstar, and he’s not a superstar. He’ll pitch very well for the Mets, he’ll fit in very well at Shea Stadium, and he could be the missing piece to a championship team. But he could just as easily be a bust, and that would be $100 million that’s hard to eat. Ask the Rockies how easily they ate the Mike Hampton contract. I don’t think it would be as bad for the Mets as the Hampton deal was for the Rockies, but it wouldn’t leave them feeling good about themselves.
So as of today, we’re no closer to knowing Zito’s intentions as we were last week, and we may not be any closer a week from now. The Zito negotiations are dragging on and on, as starting pitchers start to come off the market (presumably, after trading McCarthy and Freddy Garcia, the White Sox would be less likely to trade a pitcher). Maybe that’s Boras’ plan – prolong the negotiations as long as possible, as pitchers leave the market, and force the Mets to either make a $100 million investment in Zito or go into 2007 with a weak staff. All I know is, if Zito doesn’t sign with the Mets, can I have my last two months back? The two months I’ve spent worrying about whether or not he’ll sign with them? Please?